Newsom will call off COVID state of emergency next year

Gov. Gavin Newsom said he plans to take action in February to end California’s COVID-19 state of emergency, which he originally declared in 2020.

The governor declared a state of emergency in the early days of the pandemic to waive state regulations and laws and redirect funds to respond quickly to the public health crisis. Republicans have criticized Newsom’s decision to keep the statement going for so long, calling it an unnecessary abuse of his executive powers.

“The state of emergency was a powerful and necessary tool we used to protect our state, and without it we would not have gotten to this point,” Newsom said in a statement. “With the operational readiness we have built and the actions we will continue to apply going forward, California is poised to phase out this tool.”

Newsom’s office said the dramatic decline in deaths and hospitalizations over time gave him confidence to lift the COVID-19 state of emergency on February 28, three years after he made the declaration. The schedule should give the health system flexibility to respond to any winter waves of the virus as a result of more indoor gatherings during the holidays, his office said.

The March 4, 2020 declaration of a state of emergency served as a prelude to more than 70 executive branch orders to expand testing and vaccinations, suspend evictions and expand the range of operations for healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Newsom ended many of these executive orders over time, but previously argued that maintaining the state of emergency was vital to the state’s response. His office said Monday that Newsom will urge California lawmakers to pass legislation that still allows nurses to dispense COVID-19 therapeutics and allows lab workers to exclusively perform COVID-19 testing.

Under the California Emergency Services Act of 1970, the governor has broad powers to respond during a state of emergency such as a pandemic. The governor can enact, amend, and repeal state regulations, as well as suspend state laws, and has the power to redirect state funds to help in an emergency — even funds that the legislature has set aside for an entirely different purpose. The governor also has the power to seize private property, including hospitals, medical laboratories, hotels and motels.

Times contributor Phil Willon contributed to this report. Newsom will call off COVID state of emergency next year

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